Emory Report
April 24, 2006
Volume 58, Number 28


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April 24 , 2006
Columbia pair discusses teaching-center experiences, lessons learned

BY Robyn Mohr

The University Advisory Council on Teaching (UACT) hosted a panel discussion last week in the Jones Room of the Woodruff Library to discuss the possibility of creating a center devoted to excellence in pedagogy at Emory.

Pat Moholt and Ian Lapp, both of Columbia University, were on hand to talk about Columbia’s Center for Education Research and Evaluation (CERE), its structure and framework, and the center’s goals in a multidisciplinary university.

CERE’s mission is to promote excellence, innovation and scholarship in teaching and learning, they said. The center also strives to provide expertise and support in teaching, learning, evaluation and education research, while fostering improvement and innovation in Columbia’s courses and programs. The center does not go into an academic setting uninvited; it only helps when asked by a department or school.

Lapp believes such a center could be a valuable resource to Emory faculty. “Emory is on the cusp of something really great,” he said. “What better way to create a community than to create a community around teaching?”

In terms of structural relationships to the rest of the university, CERE offers its service in the form of a “membership”: In order to join, schools pay $145,000 for an initial two-year contract, the pair said. The contract can be cancelled with one year’s notice.

In the future, additional central funding for CERE may lower this membership fee or possibly eliminate it altogether. Moholt and Lapp suggested that Emory seriously consider how schools on campus should pay for the center’s services, and if a contractual agreement would serve the University’s goals. Lapp said a more centrally funded model could allow all schools to participate.

Columbia’s CERE offers faculty assistance in designing student assessments, creating lesson plans, outlining objectives and evaluating teaching styles. It also aids in completing research grants and gathering student evaluations, and now it is looking into possibly offering student-oriented services. Its most recent project investigated how to help students prepare for various board exams.

UACT chair Michael Lubin, professor of medicine, introduced the panel. Lubin said Provost Earl Lewis first thought of creating a teaching center at Emory two years ago upon arriving from the University of Michigan, which has its own such center. Lewis examined Emory’s existing campus resources and tried to gauge campus opinion on the desire for a teaching and learning center at Emory.

One year ago, three roundtable luncheons were dedicated to gathering ideas and thoughts of developing a teaching center. The luncheons were a time for faculty to weigh in on what they thought the center should accomplish.

Lubin discussed the results of the roundtables, during which the schools of law, medicine and nursing expressed the most interest in developing a center, he said. The law school hoped the center could help educate adjunct and junior faculty, ease the transition for new faculty, and help law school students better their writing.

Medicine envisioned a center that could help professors teach bedside manner and further develop the medical school curriculum. Finally, nursing wanted to create a stronger new-student orientation, as well as find ways to improve students’ time management and prioritization skills. Emory and Oxford colleges, as well as the graduate and business schools, were not averse to creating a center, but they did not express intense interest.

In closing, Lapp said CERE’s evaluation components have proved most beneficial at Columbia. “By evaluating and developing teachers and programs,” he said, “we are promoting learning.”